from where I sat this morning

I packed a book to read while we were camping.

I had dreams of sitting by the campfire, coffee in hand, curled up under a blanket in the crisp air with my book.

Dreams. Not reality.

Reality included lots of hiking, football, rock throwing, and nature hunting.

Reality included kids wanting my attention or needing help each time I decided to try to read.

All great and wonderful things…but it sure wasn’t solitude by the campfire reading.

Right before we loaded up to go home, the kids wanted to go to the playground one last time. I grabbed my book and my camera.

The faster her brother spun the spinning thing, the more excited she yelled while letting go of the bar.

While sitting at a picnic table (a little grumpy) with my book, I read the words, “I want to cultivate a deep sense of gratitude, of groundedness, of enough, even while I am longing for something more. The longing and the gratitude, both. I’m practicing believing that God knows more than I know, that he sees what I can’t, that he’s weaving a future I can’t even imagine from where I sit this morning. Extraordinary, indeed. More than enough.” (Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine)

And I looked up from where I sat that morning to see my 5 kids squealing and laughing on a rundown playground. Extraordinary, indeed. In that moment I thought back to 10 years ago….no insurance, home, jobs, and a baby on the way. Back then I could have never dreamed – not even my wildest imagination – could I have dreamed that this would be my future. So, I never got to sit in serenity and read my book. Instead I read a couple pages in between kids running wild and free. My kids. I’m a mom. I’m a wife. God had a future for me I could never have imagined. He has a future for me I can’t imagine.

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  • Izzy - What a lovely post! And really nice pictures.

  • danielle - Our camping trips are rarely what I picture in mind also. Beautiful post and some adorable kids 🙂

  • Carola - Such a great post and pictures! It really left me inspired to keep on going and believing in what He has in store for us. Which is incredibly helpful right now as we are facing some huge changes in our lives.

  • Bonnie - Lovely. (Also, what happened to merry-go-rounds like that? They were a park staple when I was a kid but none of the parks have them now!)

  • Brittany - Beautiful Post, Ashley! Such refreshing words, “he’s weaving a future I can’t even imagine from where I sit this morning”

    Such a nice reminder as i start my day.

  • dana - We’re on the same page girl! I just read this this morning…”God can do anything, you know…far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!” Eph 3:20 the Message. Isn’t God wonderful !?! My goal for today is to slow down and notice these gifts that are far more than my wildest dreams. Have an awesome Friday!

  • Natalie - Thank you for these words and reminders, Ashley. Thank you for allowing God to use you to speak to us this morning!

  • Emily - Just what I needed to hear today, thanks so much for these words!

  • jami - loved this. their smiles, even if only captured for the moments they lasted, now last in pictures for forever. i love that.

  • Suzette - Sigh. Those are exactly the words I needed to remember this morning. Thank you so much.

  • Mara - I just finished that book and can’t stop thinking about it or trying the recipes…the whole thing is addicting in the most delicious way.

  • Charity G. - Thank you. I think that quote may be going on my wall. So true how we don’t envision our futures as they are, but I wouldn’t give up my four crazy boys for anything. Thank you for the perspective of those moments where I also get grumpy because I don’t get to do what I want.

  • Nicole C - You always have beautiful photos but what I notice most is Little One. Her bravery to let go! I love that.

  • Celia - So often you bring tears to my eyes with what you write. I LOVED this. It’s real….. a real family, a real mother, and even the reality of just wanting those few peaceful moments. And then God has us look up and grounds us…. seeing the kids, etc…. past, present and future. He always knows what is best for us and He leads.

  • Lynn - Beautiful post this morning! Thank you for sharing!

  • Sarah (SophieBugsMom) - Boy… I needed this reminder today. I often wonder what God has planned for my future. Never imagined I would be a single mom to 3. So blessed. So lonely. So wondering what HE has in store for me. Trying to always believe that it is worth waiting for.

    I love how much your little one is melding into your family and taking cues from her siblings to be adventurous and carefree!

  • Georgette - Thank you for this beautiful post. You are always very inspiring. Going through another deployment right now and this really perked me up this morning. Love the pictures:)

  • Amy @Fig Milkshakes - Oh, Ashley. This touched me so much. In some ways I feel very kin to you – I got married young with a baby on the way (no insurance) and wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to anybody – but wouldn’t DARE change a thing. It’s just what God wanted for us.

    I don’t usually toss around Bible verses casually, because I feel the Lord needs to speak to us in our own ways with our own relationship with him, but this one has SO comforted me this past year and reminds me of your post:

    “Look among the nations and see. Wonder, and be astounded. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” Habbukuk 1:5

    Those last few words get me every time. We wouldn’t even believe it even if we were told. How deep the Father’s love for us.

  • Samantha - love this. books never really get read here with all my boys, but hey, little excerpts expounding on the goodness of God can really meet my hearts desire to remember this simple truth. love the hands free, flying merry-go-round image.

    / Sam

  • Lisa M. - Thank you for this reminder.

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Dearest Ashley, these words were perfect for my heart today. Thank you for sharing them an thanks to Shauna for writing them!

  • Emily - I loved that book. (Try the breakfast quinoa – it’s yummy on cold days) Isn’t it amazing how life turns out? We are so blessed 🙂

  • Carrie - One of the quotes I look to often is, “Thus says the Lord…’Call to me and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.'” Jeremiah 33:2,3.

    Its hard in the bad times to believe that good things can happen again, but faith in God can help the great things happen. So glad God has given you great and mighty things!

  • Tara - I needed this soooo much today! Thank you!

  • Jess - Ah, camping!! We are camping family too–but haven’t gone since our second was 8 months (he’s 2 now) Hopeful we can go next summer when our third is over a year! It truly is beautiful to simplify life and just BE, with the ones you love. I loved your reflection here…we’re a bit of where you were 10 years ago– with not much margin and five mouths to feed. I continue to work on resting in His promises and knowing He knows the future He has planned for us! Thank you for your encouragement!!

  • Paige - Hi Ashley,
    Love camping! I find a lot of peace in God’s creation, away from Wii, TV etc.
    Question: any idea where I can get instagram photos printed? And how about frames for the square pics? I have a few great ones of the boys and want them on my wall. Would love them bigger than 4X4.


  • Anastasia Curtin - Wonderful post! I think seeing kids so happy is the best of all rewards for a mom!!! Great Job Ashley!

  • Melissa Lewis - Yes! Just yes!

  • Nicoline Bingham - Hello there,

    The quote you wrote was balm for my soul..many many thanks.

    This internet is a funny thing. I read your blog everyday, and have for almost 2 years. I have cried, laughed and been in awe of you Mama of 5. At times I feel like we are kindred’s, and then I remember with sadness, that is odd friendship is one sided. Yet I am so grateful that you put into words so eloquently what is often in my heart. We also have an adopted daughter, with different struggles, along with so many joys. Your post ‘over the rainbow’ rings so loud and true. Thank you thank you, for being real, sharing your family with the world, and for allowing a peek into your day.

    One day when life slows a bit (we just had our fourth), I so look forward to taking one of your photo classes.

    much love and blessings your way from beautiful British Columbia, Canada.
    Nicoline 🙂

  • Brenda - Beautiful! And beautifully hopeful.

  • Angela - I just found your blog through Ann Voskamp’s. What a beautiful perspective you have. I love how you’re loving this season of life with your kids! I have 3 little ones 4,2 and 6 months. It’s crazy, messy and among that, I love this time with them. Glad I found this little spot of yours this morning.

  • Jessica R - I love that quote. Thanks for sharing it.

  • emily - Thank you for that – beautiful and exactly what I needed to hear!

  • tracy a - That book was so good…it challenged me a lot! I read it on my ipad and highlighted a ton….then when I updated the kindle app, it erased all my highlights. BUMMER! Enjoy your time around the table!

  • Sarah - Ashley~ I have heard your name for years now (OBVIOUSLY; you’re fantastic), but just for one reason or another have never made it onto your blog. It was really because of embrace the camera that I finally clicked over, and it has been a salve for my soul. I love that this post was the first of yours that I ever got to read. I am learning a lot about resting in the tension. The longing and the gratitude, both. We have some bumps to withstand before my husband and my story can reflect what we long for… it is comforting for me to hear your perspective of 10 years later and you’re able to see some of what He’s woven for you (though He isn’t even finished yet!) and it gives me a new energy and a new hope. Just wanted to say thanks!

  • Tara - Hi Ashley,
    I am reading your post and in awe of the way God will weave those little pieces into your life to allow you to know that He has you on the right track.
    I am homeschooling mom of three and about to adopt…not sure how many kids really…. I struggle sometimes about wanting things of this world verses what God has given me already. I remind myself daily exactly what Shauna mentioned in her book, ” I’m practicing believing that God knows more than I know, that he sees what I can’t, that he’s weaving a future I can’t even imagine from where I sit this morning.” I loved this book and I am grateful to you for reminding me of those things today. Thank you.

  • ashlee - Oh man i needed to read this. Thank you:)

  • Paige - I know I’ve commented before about your blog just being such an encouragement to me, but I just have to say it again. In a blogworld full of a lot of conflicting messages about what’s important, I find yours such a breath of fresh air. I’m really going through a time right now where I’m struggling to figure out who exactly I am. I changed jobs after 10 years of being in a particular role and it changes a lot in my life and my family’s life. Its a good change, but a much simpler role and I struggle to not define me as WHAT I do, instead of WHO I am. Does that make sense?

    Anyway, I ramble, but I just love going back to some of your posts, the Beaver Birthday, the Making a Name, the Leia Won… and remembering what is important to me. And to get confirmation, or affirmation or validation, whatever it is, that just who I am is ok. And enough. And to be reminded that this season of life is exactly the season God wants me in. Its ok to let a lot of the other stuff go. Just because I have a particular skill set, doesn’t mean its always time to be pursing it. And that’s more than ok. Its very important!

    I got a little teary eyed going through some of the posts and photos this week and just remembering what’s important in my life right this minute and why I chose to move jobs. My boys will be grown up so quickly I won’t know what happened or where the time went. Now is the time to be Mom. To cover them up one more time. To get water one more time. To explain (again) that you can say hell when you are talking about the actual place, but not in other sentences. To take twice as long to clean up the supper table because I’m showing a 4 year old how to do it. To allow my 8 year old to not eat breakfast one morning because he took so long to get ready and the bus is here so he can figure out time management. This is important. So much more important than making sure I have activities scheduled on the weekends so I can check off some kind of imaginary list of “what good moms do.”

    Thank you. I just wanted to say thank you again. I don’t even know you and your precious family, but thank you for putting them all out there and encouraging other moms so much by reminding us not to get overloaded with what the world and Pinterest says we should be doing or should be wearing to be a good mom/wife/woman.

    Thank you so much.

  • Crystal P - Thank you for sharing! It’s always so great to remember God has a plan 🙂